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Friday 26 April 2024

Was Jesus A Hate Preacher?


Was Jesus a hate preacher? We have to ask the question, because there is no doubt his message encountered hate, inspired hate in others, and he was eventually dealt with in a hateful and violent fashion.

Look at this response to something Jesus said, “3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming” (Matt. 9:3).

Here is another response to the message of Jesus, “34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons” (Matt. 9:34).

Again we see this response to Jesus, “6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:6-7).

Many saw Jesus as an incredible danger, “19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” (John 10:19-20).

And he was considered so dangerous that some were even provoked to the most severe response, John 7:25, “Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill?” And Matthew 12:14, “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.”

Surely someone who inspired such a response of hate, anger and violence, must have been a man of hate himself, right? No. But the reason I ask this question is because in the wake of the stabbing of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel, we read this in some of the media,

“‘Hate me, accept me or reject me’: The inflammatory words of bishop stabbed in Sydney attack.

The bishop targeted in Monday night’s stabbing attack in western Sydney has previously claimed the Islamic prophet Muhammad and other religious figures cannot be compared to Jesus, made inflammatory comments toward the LGBTQI+ community and fought against COVID lockdowns and vaccines…

According to the church website, Emmanuel was ordained as a priest in 2009 and as a bishop in 2011. He has amassed a large online following – a Facebook page associated with him has 294,000 followers.

Often livestreaming his services on YouTube and social media, he has attracted radical Christians for his anti-LGBTQ sermons.”[1]

It is in very poor taste to come after a man’s teachings who has been violently attacked, isn’t it? Especially if you do not take into account everything that man has said. Let me be clear this article does not say that Mari inspired these attacks against himself. But painting the man as an “inflammatory” preacher right after he got attacked is pretty low. Mar Mari Emmanuel is anything but a hate preacher, as you can see in this short clip where he addresses “My beloved Muslim world” in an incredibly gracious and caring way.

However, he is a speaker of the truth, and those who speak the truth will create offense, they will draw criticism, and some of them will get violently attacked. Not because that is what they are seeking to provoke, but because the truth is very offensive in a world that hates the truth. And by the standard of this media piece you could argue that Jesus was an inflammatory preacher as well.

Jesus claimed to have the authority of the God of the Jews right in front of their faces by forgiving a sick and sinful man (Matt. 9:1-8, Mark 2:6-7).

Jesus was able to cast out demons in a way that terrified the religious leaders of his day (Matt. 9:32-34), and he did not listen to their calls to explain how he could do this.   

Jesus’ teaching was so cutting and so insightful, and had such authority, that it created divisions among the Jews because he claimed to be speaking directly on behalf of God the father (John 10:1-19). Because of this many people thought he was the Christ, the rightful king of the Jews, though not everyone (John 7:24-31). Because he had such authority he was not afraid to flout their religious traditions and challenge their leadership (Matt. 12:9-14).

So, Jesus was a man who was not afraid of speaking uncomfortable truths, and sometimes even right in front of those who hated what he was saying. And their response to him shows how inflammatory these things were in their eyes. They hated him for these kinds of actions and statements.  

Now let’s evaluate Jesus in light of modern audiences. Jesus said marriage was only between one man and one woman (Matt. 191-12), calling into question same sex marriage, and all other forms of sexual relationships that are not between a man and a woman who are married to each other.

Jesus told people to love their enemies and forgive those who have seriously sinned against us, or we would not be forgiven (Matt. 5:43-6:15). Do you know how offensive this teaching is to the unredeemed mind? I have seen people snarl at the injustice of the fact that God would punish the person who did not forgive, harder than the person who repented for their wrong and sought forgiveness from God. Many people hate this teaching and even many Christians struggle with it.

Jesus told us to put loyalty to him up and over our family (Luke 14:25-26). Do you realize how many people despise this kind of teaching? This breaks so many honour codes in so many societies, that for this reason alone some people hate Jesus. Simply because he says that following him is more important than following your family.

According to the standards of Jesus’ day and according to some standards of our day, you could accuse Jesus of being an inflammatory preacher. Look at the way he spoke at times. He called his own listeners adulterers (Matt. 5:27-28), hateful (Matt. 5:21-26), hypocrites (Matt. 7:5), evil (Matt. 7:11), and told them they were dangerously obsessed with money (Matt. 6:19-24). And this is all just in the sermon of the Mount. Of all these things telling people how they should let go of or use their money probably stokes up the most anger. And later in his ministry he called the Jewish leaders, the scribes and Pharisees, fools (Matt. 23:17), blind men (Matt. 23:19), blind guides (Matt. 23:24), hypocrites (Matt. 23:25), whitewashed tombs (Matt. 23:27), lawless (Matt. 23:28), serpents, and a brood of vipers (Matt. 23:33). These are some strong words, especially when you put them together like all of this.

Of course, if the modern media existed in Jesus’ day someone may have been able to write, “local former Jewish carpenter turned inflammatory preacher dies by crucifixion. This man has blasphemed, called his listeners evil hypocrites, and accused the Jewish leadership of being whitewashed tombs.” This might be true in what it says, but it leaves out so much as to present a false perspective. If you were to present Jesus in such a fashion you would be speaking roughly equivalent to how many of his opponents then and now see him, simply as an insurrectionist or criminal, who died at the hands of the Roman overlords who ruled Judea at the time.  

Taking some of the harder things a preacher like Mari says and not putting it alongside of the whole work of the man, his gracious addressing of those he disagrees with, his loving actions to the community, and much more, is incredibly unjust. But it fits in with what Jesus and Peter told us we should expect to see happen to Christian preachers in this world,

“12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet. 4:12-14).

As Christians we have been told to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But we were also told this would not always go down well, that we would be imperfect at how we did this, and that we should expect a fiery trial from time to time because we are seeking to speak the truth. And we are to allow none of this stop us from being the people of the truth who are not afraid to speak it. 

We don’t know exactly why Mar Mari was attacked, though it has been called a religiously motivated terrorist attack. What we do know is that how he has responded since the attack is a model of graciousness. He has forgiven his attacker, and called for his community to do the same. We Christians are going to face many different kinds of unfair framing or criticisms for seeking to speak the truth in the world. I hope we can all listen to the words of Jesus and seek to bless those who view us an unnecessarily “inflammatory.” I hope we can learn from Mari’s example of putting this into practice, so that we can silence the foolish talk of those who would criticize us (1 Peter 2:15) simply for seeking to be faithful to message of the scriptures, and our Lord Jesus Christ. And I hope we remain courageous in speaking the truth. 

List of References

[1] Patrick Begley 2024, “‘Hate me, accept me or reject me’: The inflammatory words of bishop stabbed in Sydney attack” The Sydney Morning Herald, accessed 26/04/2024.

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